Highlights of the Steelband Music Festival of 1966

From the Trinidad & Tobago Music Festival Vol. III “Finals”

The flawless performances of intricate classical pieces at The Steelband Music Festival of 1966 proclaimed beyond a doubt that the steelband had arrived on the world music scene as a complete musical orchestra, capable of interpreting any type of music, including the music of the classical masters.

I remember being in the audience on this night in Queens Hall, Port of Spain, and , like the appreciative audience being enraptured by the outstanding musical performances.

One such piece was the Angostura Starlift’s interpretation of a selection from George Frederic Handel’s masterpiece, “The Messiah”. As arranged by Albert James, here is The Angostura Starlift and Handel’s ” For Unto Us A Child Is Born”.

Angostura Starlift Steel Orchestra – Handel’s “For Unto Us A Child Is Born”

City Syncopators was an unsponsored band in 1966 and surprised many with a superb performance, that earned them second place in the Trinidad & Tobago Steelband Music Festival of 1966.

Their performance of the Poet and Peasant Overture, arranged by Anthony Lynch, is considered to be one of the best ever of this classical piece by a steelband, to this day.

Here, Live from the 1966 Trinidad and Tobago Steelband Music Festival, is City Syncopators Steel Orchestra and The Poet and Peasant Overture. (Franz Von Suppe’)

CITY SYNCOPATORS Steel Orchestra – Poet And Peasant Overture 

The T&T Steelband Music Festival of 1966 was a landmark in the development in the steelband art-form , and a significant milestone in the development of the steelpan as a versatile musical instrument .

All of the finalists at that festival performed at their highest level , and another fine performance was that of the Chase Manhattan Savoys Steel Orchestra.

Here they are as they performed “Dama Antonona” , as composed by Venezuelan composer Francisco de Paula Aguirre (October 20, 1875 – 1939) and arranged by Martin Albino.

Another outstanding performer that night in 1966 at the Queens Hall in Port of Spain was the Guinness Cavaliers from San Fernando.

They placed third in the competition in which each band played two test pieces and a tune of choice. Their tune of choice was the Overture from the Opera “Carmen” (Georges Bizet).

Guinness Cavaliers – The Overture from the Opera “Carmen” 

The eventual winner of the festival was the renowned Pan Am Jet North Stars Steel Orchestra , a band that will always be remembered as one of the best ever.

Though a great performance, their version of The Poet and Peasant was overshadowed by Syncopators version of the same piece. However, their superb arrangement of the test piece was enough to make them the eventual winner of the festival.

Here is their winning arrangement of “Intermezzo in E Flat”, which was the test piece specially composed for the festival by Anthony Prospect.

Pan Am Jet North Stars – Intermezzo in ‘E’ Flat

And this is North Stars winning tune of choice.They also played The Poet and Peasant Overture. (Franz Von Suppe’).

Pan Am Jet North Stars -Poet and Peasant Overture
(Also included are the adjucator John Russell’s comments and results)

In the featured picture – Anthony Williams (Leader/ arranger North Stars) , George Goddard (President/ National Steelband Association), Albert James (Leader/arranger Starlift ), Dr. Capildeo, Bobby Mohammed (Leader/ arranger Cavaliers), Hon. Solomon Hochoy, Errol Nicholas.(Leader Synco) and Martin Albino (Leader/arranger Savoys) — picture provided by Martin Albino

4 thoughts on “Highlights of the Steelband Music Festival of 1966

  1. Thank you Glenroy for the continued sharing, and the nostalgia that your blog brings along with a weath of information and cultural enlightenment…much love brudda!


  2. Good day to all who took part in producing the list of finalists in the 1966 steelband competition.
    There is a serious omission in this article:
    Please note the band that they say which placed second was not City Syncopaters but the Defence Force Steel Ochestra of which I was a playing member.
    Please get the facts corrected and though too late give credit where credit is due.
    Respectfully Bernard Joseph (Retired)


    1. I was present the night and as I recall Pan Am North Stars was first, City Syncopators was second and Guinness Cavaliers came third.
      This is also verified by the album’s liner notes.
      I do not recall a performance by the Defence Force Steelband that night.


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